By Capt. Scott KuhnSeptember 17, 2019
RODRIGUEZ LIVE FIRE COMPLEX, Republic of Korea - The Soldiers of Task Force Charger consisting of elements from 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment; 2nd Battalion, 7th Cav. Regt.; and 3rd Engineer Battalion, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division; the 11th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division and the ROK Army's 15th Chemical Battalion and 3rd Battalion, 137th Infantry conducted combined arms breach training here, Sept. 3-7.
The training, a part of the normal mission essential task list for armored brigades, provided the units the opportunity to increase their interoperability and improve their collective tasks across the formation.
A breach is a complex operation that requires synchronicity between the various elements of the task force and the different enablers. It starts with scouts identifying a breach point followed by suppression at the breach using fires as well as a support by fire element. The breach is then obscured by smoke and the near side security element moves in to protect the engineers whose job it is to actually breach the obstacles, which can be anything from mines, to concertina wire, to tank ditches and anything else that would impede the brigade's progress.
Once the obstacle is breached and the lanes are marked, the far side is secured and the assault force crosses through the breach point and continues the attack.
"Depending on the complexity of the enemy's obstacles we may conduct a breach at any echelon, beginning with a platoon conducting an in stride breach," said Lt. Col. Ryan Long, commander of Task Force Charger. "We prepare for this first by mastering the employment and maintenance of our equipment, in this case the mine plow and roller.
"As we improve our individual and crew skills we leverage virtual training systems to get dozens of repetitions at synchronizing maneuver, fire, and enablers at the platoon and company levels. In addition, the leaders and Soldiers conducted leader development sessions in the planning, preparation and execution of breach operations."
The task force started field training at the platoon level without attached units and gradually progressed to adding mortars, artillery and ROK infantry units.
"My primary focus for training was to maintain a consistent flow of knowledge to continually give my Soldiers simplified information that they could process," said Sgt. 1st Class Casey Warren, a platoon sergeant with C Co., 2nd Battalion, 7th Cav. Regt. "At times our operations become complex and for my newer Soldiers it can be a bit overwhelming for them. It was important that my Soldiers not only understood their individual roles during our breach operation but also what the platoon had to execute in order to achieve mission success."
For Warren's platoon the training started off by giving reading assignments from the "Tank Platoon FM", progressing to movements of the platoon through a breach using a white board and marker, with the culminating event of executing it on the actual tank. This crawl-walk-run style was mimicked throughout echelon within the task force.
Finally, they brought all of these elements together into a cohesive task force and added additional enabling units from the ROK, U.S. Air Force and each U.S. Army warfighting function. In the end, over 200 people participated in the planning and execution of each Combined-Joint Company Combined Arms Breach, with 14 tanks, five engineer vehicles from two different battalions, five different aerial platforms from five organizations, and ten artillery and mortar platforms as well as ROKA infantry, mortar, and smoke generation units.
As if the complexity of conducting a breach wasn't difficult enough, the added elements of live-fire, terrain, weather and working with new units added to the challenge.
"The terrain here is very restrictive compared to breaches that I have conducted in the past; it also presents other challenges such as communications being diminished by the mountainous terrain while incorporating an allied force and other U.S. units which we have never partnered with," said Warren. "Overall this was a great experience to train in an environment that is not wide open and one that presents maneuver complications that forces us leaders, in my opinion, to be extremely thorough in the planning process."
"Each of our combined company teams was proud of their performance by the end of each training evolution and learned to work intuitively with one another," Long said. "The unpredictable environmental conditions challenged each team, but they reacted on short notice with no loss of motivation. For Task Force Charger and the 137th ROKA Mechanized Infantry Battalion this was a great first step in our unceasing pursuit of increased lethality and interoperability."
The Greywolf Brigade is three months into a nine-month rotation in support of the 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S. Combined Division and the ROK Army for the common defense of the peninsula.